Editors note: Over the last ten years I’ve met hundreds of committed and courageous professionals. Many times, what start out as side-bar conversations involve compelling insight from front-line supervisors whose boots are on the ground each day. So, in an effort to expand on our services,we are introducing a section of our editorial calendar dedicated to front-line supervisors with a keen understanding of what it takes to keep their crews safe, with operationally and administratively.

The following post was prepared by Captain Tyler Reynolds from the Riverside (City) Fire Department in CA. Captain Reynolds is a 16 year veteran of Fire Service.

Company Officers – It’s your job.  “Keep your employees employed.” 

Promoting is more than wearing bugles, badges, and belt buckles.  The fire service does not need individuals wanting to wear a costume, intimidated of confrontation, and not willing to educate their crews.  Our mission is to protect lives and property as a department, but we also must protect and educate our crew members as company officers. 

As a company officer we have to be thoroughly trained, and able to perform within all the divisions of the organization: Administration, Operations, Prevention, and Training. There are two divisions that we frequently lack training:  Administration, and Politics (not listed).  “Never underestimate the power of Politics.”  You will rarely find a firefighter who was terminated over an operational incident or mishap, but an alarming number of firefighters are being terminated due to poor decisions and unprofessional behavior.  As Chief Brunacini once stated “Are you HR certified? Company officers must instill professionalism.  We are professional firefighters.  Be that professional firefighter.

In today’s fire service, many of us are blue collar workers that are now expected to run a corporation. We are now required to think at an executive level, mentor, and provide leadership to our crew members.  Believe me…. you set the environment. Your crew members know who they are working for. Getting people to act in a professional manner, and do what’s right is not the easiest thing…but professionalism is a must.

So, with 10 years as a captain, this is what I leave you with.

Professionalism & Teamwork 

Have fun, but always be professional.  We will make mistakes…. handle your mistakes as a professional.  Your decisions and reactions as a company officer will set the tone of the fire station.  

Your crew is your team. Lead the team.  

You as the company officer are responsible for your crew’s actions. Good fun is OK, but don’t lead your team down the wrong road and allow behavior that can jeopardize their career.  As a team, you will not allow unprofessional behavior, or performance that’s below standard.  Keep your crew in-line as a team member.  If it’s non-punitive, be that team member to stop it, and educate your crew why you stopped it.  Teamwork and “you” consistently building the team are key. “Remind and Correct.”  This is not the easiest thing as a company officer. But remember…. you took the bugles. Unfortunately, friendships are sometimes lost during this simple process.  Their level of maturity will be decide. 

One of my mentors really allowed me to start thinking at the 10,000 ft level. He taught me how to “Remind and Correct.”  It’s a very simple teamwork type thought process.  Remind your crew’s what’s right and wrong, and correct them as needed. This is where confrontation comes into play.

Confrontation is not easy, but if you cannot deal with confrontation then the fire will continue to grow; and eventually someone may get burned.  You may cost people their careers over a simple issue that could have been corrected.  “Remind & Correct.”  Remind your crew members when something needs to be corrected, educate them as needed, and allow them to make the corrections.  When they don’t make the correction is when things get tough.  How many times do you need to remind them? When does coaching make its way to formal disciplinary action?  Understand Punitive vs. Non-Punitive disciplinary actions. 

When you reach this point, this becomes a two-lane road.  Simply put, it’s either Non-Punitive or Punitive.  If it’s non-punitive, then get this corrected at the captain’s level, and keep your chain of command in the loop as needed.  If it’s punitive, then ‘stop everything” and call your BC.